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Ranking Saints needs: No. 11 Quarterback

A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2015 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team’s need for upgrades or replacements.

Current depth chart:

Drew Brees

Age 35, turns 36 on Jan. 15. Signed through 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $19 million. 2015 salary-cap number: $26.4 million.

Luke McCown

Age 33, unrestricted free agent.

Ryan Griffin

Age 25, signed through 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $510,000. 2015 salary-cap number: $510,000.

Analysis:

I still don’t think it’s an urgent priority for the Saints to use a high draft pick on a future replacement for Brees, because I can’t imagine him leaving the starting lineup for at least two or three more years.

However, we’ve at least reached the point in Brees’ career where the Saints could consider drafting a QB as early as Rounds 2 or 3 if they really have a conviction on a specific player. Even if they don’t need one over the next three years, they could wind up developing and trading one.

Clearly, Brees had a down year with too many turnovers in big moments in 2014. But he was still awfully sharp at times, tying for the NFL lead with 4,952 passing yards and ranking second with a completion percentage of 69.2. There wasn’t a significant decline in Brees’ arm strength. But the deep passing game has definitely started to disappear, which is probably due to a combination of how defenses are playing the Saints, a decline from the aging receivers and offensive line and Brees starting to feel less confident in pulling the trigger on those throws.

As for the backups, I wouldn’t be surprised to see yet another summer competition between McCown and Griffin, who might finally be ready to win the No. 2 job after impressing during the past two offseasons.

ESPN scouting insider Matt Williamson’s take:

“I’m torn on [Brees] a little bit. I don’t think he played as bad as people think. But I’m wondering about his arm. He’s never been an overpowering passer. And I think he doesn’t drive the ball as well as he used to. The big-play element of this offense was obviously absent, and it’s been such a great part of what they do throughout their great runs on offense.

“But I think the Saints, if you look during the Brees era and [Sean] Payton era, have invested a lot of money on interior linemen. And I think that’s on purpose. Because it’s easy to forget that Brees is short and he doesn’t see over the line all that well, and they don’t want a rush right up his face. And I thought the guards (Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs) certainly didn’t play like Pro Bowlers or what they’re worth. I thought they were really weak at center.

“So I don’t know if it’s, ‘Hey, let’s blame Drew Brees.’ But he also wasn’t Superman and overcame things either. …

“As for the turnovers -- I think that’s one aspect that people don’t talk a lot about with Brees. He’s made some head-scratching decisions over his career. I mean, that’s not all that uncommon for him to take unnecessary risks, trying to do too much. He doesn’t always throw a ton of picks, but he’s not Aaron Rodgers (in that regard).”

Previous rankings:

No. 12: Specialists